A Loaded Gun
August 21, 2009 in Rants
A loaded gun is a rich and dazzling metaphor in the poetry of Emily Dickinson. However, a real loaded gun brought into public, such as a crowd of protesters outside of a town hall meeting with the the President of the United States is not a metaphor. It is not a symbol. It is a serious threat to public safety. This is a matter of basic commonsense: bringing a weapon to a political rally is a provocation to violence.
The excuse that this is not illegal is just silly. It is not illegal to go to church and during prayer let rip a serious of loud and foul-smelling beer farts. Doing idiotic things just because they are not illegal serves the purpose of demonstrating your idiocy. In addition, some rights are not preserved by exercising them. Some rights get taken away when they are exercised in a manner that is idiotic and dangerous.
I would like to think that the sight of gun-toting anti-government extremists (e.g., see Joan Walsh’s article on William Kostric, pictured above) at presidential political rallies might inspire a bit of a re-think of the wisdom of allowing the general population to go running around with loaded weapons in public, but I realize that there are places in the U.S. where we are not likely to find much commonsense when it comes to this issue.
Ever since the Civil War this country has become increasingly obsessed with guns. It makes us one of the most violent and dangerous cultures in the world. Ask anyone who works in an emergency room in a big city: they can tell you that guns are a major public health problem. My position is that the Second Amendment was written in a completely different time and place and based on an utterly different technology. It is as lunatic to apply the logic of the Second Amendment to our modern situation as it is to insist that white male property owners be the only ones who are allowed to vote.
That said, I recognize the fact that we allow people to own guns and in some places we allow people to carry guns in public. I may think this is insane but I am not saying this is illegal. I understand the laws of the land and I’m not interested in rehashing arguments about the Second Amendment. That is not my point in writing this post. Indeed, the Second Amendment serves as a diversion from the real issue; blathering about their rights is a tactic that gun-extremists use to avoid talking about their more extremist views. The fact that anti-government groups are growing in size and becoming more vocal now, AFTER Bush and Cheney have left office, is an indication that these people are not primarily concerned with the increasing tyranny of the U.S. and the loss of civil liberties.
Furthermore, people don’t always have a right to be stupid: not when it threatens public safety. You don’t have a “right” to endanger the lives of innocent people. You don’t have a “right” to threaten the president of the United States. Our rights also come with some responsibilities. That is what it means to be a member of society. The idea that brandishing your guns at political events represents some principle of “freedom” could not be further from the truth. Using the threat of violence as a means for political expression is a tactic of tyrants.
These men (and I do not think it is insignificant that this is primarily if not exclusively something men are wont to do) are bringing weapons to political events (about the topic of health care?) that are attended by the president of the United States. When asked to explain themselves they just flap their mouths about the Second Amendment. Thanks for the history lesson, Skippy, but everybody knows that: save it for your online chat buddies at gunnutsackery.net.
In the confines of their curdled brains perhaps they think they are Paul Revere “defending” our freedoms. They seem to believe that they are the heirs of Thomas Jefferson’s rhetorical flourishes. (As if. Like they speak fluent French and are versed in all of Classical literature, in the original Greek and Latin. Yes, Jefferson was an advocate of the right to bear arms. He also owned slaves, was opposed to women in politics, and thought that the Native Americans should be removed from their lands. So let’s not get too nostalgic about returning to the principles of the founding fathers, m-kay?)
They obviously want to get attention and enjoy being interviewed on national television. Part of me wants the media to ignore them. But the other part of me would like to see Lawrence O’Donnell doggedly interrogate them, not letting them off the hook when they offer smug statements “informing” us about their rights like they are constitutional scholars.
Were they planning on going hunting at the town hall? Why would anyone need to carry an assault weapon anywhere in this country? You don’t carry a loaded weapon unless you believe that you might have a need to use it. And just when do you EVER have a right to shoot an assault weapon in a public place?
Did they think they were going to need to defend themselves at a town hall meeting about health care? One that was staffed by local law enforcement not to mention the PRESIDENT’S Secret Service? No one was being defended by these chunderheads. On the contrary: they were foolishly threatening the lives of everyone around them, including the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
What exactly was posing such a threat to these guys that they felt the need to arm themselves? Is it the terror of someone holding a different opinion? Is it because someone they didn’t vote for was elected to the presidency by an overwhelming majority? Well, GET OVER IT. I have news for them: the kind of people who respond to losing an election by arming themselves with guns are not the people who represent freedom and democracy.
A gun intrinsically threatens violence and murder. What is the statement being made here? That you have the right to threaten to spray bullets indiscriminately into a crowd? In what way does that represent democracy? What could be more of a threat to our freedoms than to have men coming to political rallies brandishing loaded weapons? At the very least a gun is a is a form of intimidation that stifles dissent. The point of a loaded gun puts the fragility of democracy into sharp relief. The point of a loaded gun puts the fragility of life into sharp relief.
Perhaps they think this makes them look smart? Or strong? Or brave? Or powerful? Honestly, these guys are pathetic. It would be laughable if it were so dangerous. They look like a bunch of sadsacks with very tiny dicks and even tinier brains living in a word of adolescent fantasy. They should return to acting out their little melodramas of arrested development back home in their parents’ basement. Or perhaps they could take up jousting at the Medieval Faire. Or just compulsively masturbate. Whatever it takes to have them stop being a public menace (or at least a public nuisance).
People who treat guns like they are toys (Look at me! I have a gun! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew!) are not adult enough to be a responsible gun owner. Anyone who brings a loaded weapon to a public gathering — and particularly to a presidential event — are by definition not responsible gun owners. They shouldn’t be allowed to own them if they are not cognitively capable of understanding what the guns are capable of doing in the real — the flesh and blood – world.
They do not understand that with rights comes responsibilities. They do not value their freedoms enough to treat them with respect. It is a profoundly antisocial person who must publicly demonstrate — in the most literal-minded way — that they have the power to obliterate the lives of those around them. In a way, these people who have so little value for the lives of others does say something about our culture and the problem with health care.
I wrote above that I wanted these men to explain what they were thinking. In truth, I don’t really want to give them the attention they crave. I’m not particularly interested in what they have to say. They are boring idealogues, devoid of any new or interesting ideas.
It is much more fruitful to go back to the words of a woman who lived a rather sheltered and limited (physically) life in nineteenth century New England. Emily Dickinson used a loaded gun as a point at which to explore the intersection between human, animal, and machine; as a metaphor for rage; as a voice for those whose lives were not their own to live; and as one of the most enduring symbols of the American culture of violence. (It is worth remembering that this poem was written during the Civil War). The poem shows us (among other things) that a life that is a loaded gun is a violent one: animated by power and control and liberated in killing and death. Dickinson’s poem is difficult and demanding; we struggle to understand, laboring over the meanings, working to create an understanding of what a loaded gun represents both literally and metaphorically. In short, it makes us think, which is an activity that is terribly under-represented at these events.